Guitar Lessons Part 17

Oct 6: Nervous-er

That probably isn’t a word. But you all know what it means.

I’m even more nervous than I was yesterday.

Today, during my practice session, I played several different classical pieces. My favourite is Night on Bald Mountain. You probably know it as the song in Fantasia with the devil.

My children dance while I play it and it’s hard not to laugh because their actions resemble the demons in the movie.

Then I played my song multiple times. I’m really happy with how it went today.

I really hope it goes as well tonight.

Oct 7: Performance complete!

Thank you for following me on my journey from first picking up a guitar to a performance for my writer’s group. I will continue to post updates, but last night was what I had been preparing for for three months.

How did it go?

I made several mistakes, missed the strings once on a strum, discovered that it’s really hard to play a chord when my hands are shaking, and it was LOVED by the writer’s group.

So I’m going to call my first performance a win.

Next up, preparing for a live performance in a year and a half. (If the book is accepted by the publisher.)

Also, I have another song that I get to write for book 2. I’m going to try to write the music for it too, but I’m sure I’ll need help from my music mentor for that. I still want to try. I understand how it works a lot better now, so fingers crossed?

Today, I played a bunch of classical songs, which was fun. Then I played my song twice and recorded it once. My kids sang along. (They’re 5 and 2)

Talk to you tomorrow!

Oct 8: Relief

I am feeling a lot of relief today. Like I’ve climbed a mountain and found that I didn’t tumble down the other side.

I played a few songs from the search function in the app, mostly Halloween songs. They’re fun.

It gave me the idea that I could play from my Christmas songbook I’ve got for flute once it’s time for that kind of song. It’ll give me practice with the names of the frets AND practice with the names of the notes on the staff. I’m looking forward to it.

I played my song once and then played a bunch of other songs. It’s nice to just include it on the rotation of songs rather than play it over and over again.

Oct 9: Over an hour

I played way too long today. My fingertips are tingling. I really enjoyed it, though.

I feel like my strumming is improving.

I played several songs from the app, including the two Halloween songs I found the other day.

I also played my song twice. My son sang along. A few seconds late, but that’s still amazing for a two-year old, imho.

Oct 10: Break

No guitar or uke today. Too busy with I’m not even sure what… Kids, I guess?

Hopefully I’ll pick one up tomorrow.

My fingertips don’t sting too much today, so that’s awesome.

Oct 11: Uke duets

Today, I played the soprano uke while my husband played the tenor uke. We had a lot of fun, although husband says that I didn’t count in (I didn’t, but he didn’t ask me to until after we’d finished for the day).

It was nice to realize I hadn’t forgotten all the uke chords, although our app is great and has the chords at the top of the song. I miss that feature in the guitar app I have.

Both kids also played with the ukulele. They’re so cute.

Pegasus with the soprano ukulele. He needs to work on his left thumb positioning.

Being Productive Isn’t that Important

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m not sure when it happened, but I became one of those people who has trouble not doing something. I’ve always fidgited and couldn’t fully sit still, but at some point my inability to sit still went from physical to mental.

I do a lot of things for various projects, jobs, etc. There’s always something to do. Because of that, I’ve had a hard time reading for pleasure.

I completely stopped during university and was fine until parental leave. There’s not much I can do on the bus other than read, video games, or emails. I tried writing, but it wasn’t easy. So for the past fifteen years I’ve read on the bus and it’s worked really well, allowing me to read an average of 20 or so novels a year.

A tired author wearing a shirt that says, “So many books, so little time.” On the shirt is an octopus with glasses holding a cup of tea and reading two books and holding another.
Shirt available at Tee Turtle.

Since my second parental leave, I’ve had a lot harder a time. There are three reasons:

The first is simple and is just the lack of bus and forced time set aside.

The second will sound petty, but it’s my kids. I love my little Dragon and Pegasus, but they don’t seem to like me reading. Pegasus will physically put himself between me and a book or my kobo. Then when I put it down, he’ll go away and do something else.

He’s older now, so hopefully he’s getting over it, but I still have this weird instinct of not reading around him.

The third is something I’ve been been struggling with for a while. When I read, I feel like I should be doing something else. That’s how my relaxing evening reading turned into writing (that worked out for writing). There’s a kind of guilt and panic when I read that I’m having a hard time getting over.

I need to keep telling myself it’s okay to do things that aren’t productive. It’s okay to take ten or twenty minutes to be a little selfish. The other things will wait.

It’s okay to do things for pleasure and not production!

Maybe if I say it enough times it’ll sink in? I detest that I can know something intellectually and somehow not actually believe it deep down.

Stay safe and be kind,


Coffee Makes a Great Present

Hello Coffee lovers!

In case you hadn’t thought of it, small batch fresh roasted coffee is a great choice for presents. As is crochet.

Note: a lot of teachers drink coffee. We also have gift cards for those who are virtual.

Christmas Deadline

In Canada or USA, order yours before December 5th to guarantee shipping and before December 15th for local pickup.

Buy a book, get 15% off your order

Use BOOKMAS as a code on checkout for 15% off your entire order if you buy a book.

Coffee Flavours available

Thank you and happy holidays.


Red Notice – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Red Notice.


Action packed from start to finish with lots of twists and turns. The story itself is pretty straight forward action/heist. Some of the writing was silly and a lot of the plot points that are supposed to make us think the characters are smart, are ludicrous. It had me saying, “That’s not how that works,” more times than it should have.

Score: 0.5


The characters aren’t deep; they’re basically thin backstories for the three main actors to play into their strengths. It works mostly, but there is more chemistry between the Rock and Reynolds than the Rock and Godot.

The secondary characters are cardboard cutouts with the exception of Chris Diamantopoulos as Sotto Voce who hams it up beautifully.

Score: 0.5


There are a few self aware and hilarious lines. Nothing super exciting, but the dialogue is fun.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The visuals are competent and I’m glad they didn’t add a colour filter on the whole thing, but there was a lack of cohesion in the different settings on a colour level. The actors were pretty though.

The music was completely forgettable, but that just means it did it’s job.

Score: 0.5


Every action movie needs the rest points where we start to care about the characters. This didn’t have any because we were expected to care about the actors. Unfortunately, those scenes are also about letting the audience rest and relate.

Both my the two and five year old got a little bored and the rest of us, although enjoying it, spent a lot more time picking it apart than normal.

Score: 1


What you see is exactly what you get with this movie. It’s action packed with lots of personality and more than its fair share of quips. The actors play exactly what you expect. This is a fun movie, but it’s not deep.

Final Score: 3.5 stars out of 5

Guitar Lessons Part 16

Sept 30: Nerves

I didn’t have much time to play today, but I played my song a bunch of times. Made some mistakes, but not every time.

I’m really trying to keep my chord progressions clean. I feel like I so often end up dulling the strings underneath the ones I’m going for, especially when I play the C chord.

I hope I can figure it out before next Wednesday.

Oct 1: Panicking

Every time I played my song today, I made mistakes.

I’m panicking. Mildly.


^reasonable depiction of myself panicking

I also played a few other songs. I feel like my chord transitions are faster, which is nice.

Oct 2: Trying new things

I have decided not to continue with the lessons in the app I use. However, I discovered recently that there are weekly challenges in the app and I decided to give that a try. It’s interesting and kinda fun.

I played my song a bunch of times. I still love it, btw. Good thing, because I hear it a LOT.

I decided to try playing songs from my uke app on the guitar. It worked REALLY well. I was especially happy with how the Julie and the Phantoms songs turned out.

Only four more days of practice! Eep

Oct 3: Will I ever learn?

I played the challenges again today. This week is Baby Shark, by the way. I refuse to learn that, on principal. So I went back several weeks to Tchaikovsky. There’s the sugar plum fairy riff and melody and the swan princess melody. I completed the first. The second two are incredibly challenging. I did better than I expected, tbh.

Then I played my song multiple times.

And then I played a bunch of songs from my uke app (on guitar). I had a lot of fun.

The only problem? I played for almost an hour and now my fingers hurt. A lot.

Will I ever learn?

The next few days will be much shorter practice sessions, both because my fingers hurt and because my daughter has virtual school, so our days are scheduled around her breaks.

Oct 4: No damage done

My fingers felt great today, so I played a little longer than I had expected after the long time I played yesterday.

I played the challenge in the app and I did really well! I managed to play the whole sugar plum fairy melody that was up, and it was a level 5! I didn’t go past level 4 in the lessons, so I’m very proud of myself.

I played my song several times. The first few times made me cringe at the number of mistakes I made, but then I was very happy with the following attempts. Hopefully I can recreate the happy attempts when I perform on Wednesday!

I played a few fun songs after that. I’m really enjoying Perfect Harmony by Julie and the Phantoms.

Jeepers, I’m nervous for Wednesday.

Oct 5: Exploring the app

I decided to explore the app I used for my lessons a little bit more. I found the “search songs” function and filter. I played a bunch of low level classical songs today. It was a lot of fun!

Then I played my song multiple times. I had trouble with the timing of my strumming in the second verse.

Coupled with the horrifying dream I had early this morning where I was supposed to perform at a party but nobody had told me, so I didn’t have my guitar. A bunch of people offered me a variety of stringed instruments, none of which I had ever seen before. There was an electric stringed instrument with a button you pressed to set the capo, but the neck was wider than my entire hand and you didn’t strum. There was an orb shaped stringed instrument that you played by picking the strings with a metal tool that looked like tweezers. There was a long-necked string instrument that I didn’t look at for long because it only had two strings and played with a bow. So I gave up looking for an instrument and decided to just sing, but I couldn’t remember the tune very well and it was all over the place….

I think I’m stressing about the performance tomorrow evening.

Gah, tomorrow!!!

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 11

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12

Chapter 11

“Where did they go?” yelled a voice. It was the Black-Sun encrypted frequency and either this was the greatest actor in the galaxy or our trick had worked.

“If we move, they’ll shoot us down,” said Diamond, looking perplexed.

I shrugged and said, “We’d better hope they give up or search somewhere else for us because this emitter can’t handle our disguise for more than another ten minutes.”

Sphene made a little squeaking sound and said, “I get that this was the plan and we didn’t expect it to work.” Her brother gave her a surprised look and she continued, “Oh, come on, Diamond had her ‘we’re going to die’ face on. And there was the whole proposal from Garnet.” She turned back to me and Diamond and finished, “We need a next part of the plan.”

Diamond shook her head and said, “Youth today. Always in a hurry. I’ll be glad to retire. Anyway. The moon behind us is hiding a jump gate. We just have to figure out how to use it without alerting the giant, super advanced fleet of psychics.”

“Sounds easy to me,” Flint hooted from the front.

Diamond nodded and asked me, “Can we switch from our disguise to the cloak without them noticing?”

“If anyone is looking at us or any scans pass by us, they’ll notice. You wouldn’t have another distraction up your sleeve?” It was a long shot, but I had to ask. She shook her head and we all paused for a second. 

I’ll never forget that second. It’s when my whole life changed. One moment, I was a deserter turned mechanic, turned thief; the next, I was flooded with images, sounds, smells, thoughts, and emotions. It was all extremely overwhelming and I needed to sit down.

“What just happened?” Onyx asked. He must have asked a few times because he looked worried.

I wasn’t sure how to answer him so I just said, “I feel like I just watched a hundred movies at once.”

Flint turned around and looked at me wide eyed. “Did you see anything about what’s going on right now?”

An image of us going through the gate and the moon exploding popped into my memory and I explained it to the group. When I was done I added, “I think there’s a self destruct in the gates. If we send an altered code just as we go through, it’ll blow up behind us.”

“What are we talking about here?” Diamond asked and then added, “Are we destroying the whole fleet?”

I shrugged. “It wasn’t that specific.”

“Well, dang. Little grease monkey here’s a baby Sun Speaker,” Flint sounded both reverent and highly amused.

We moved slowly towards the moon like a toddler trying to be sneaky, switched from disguise to cloak, and went through the gate at a speed that was completely reckless. I punched in the code myself and we watched as the entire fleet shot at us.

Once on the other side of the gate, it exploded moments before some of the missiles would have come through. We all whooped with joy and hugged. When I got to Onyx, I took his beautiful face into my hands and leaned forward to kiss him. He smelled of cooking, disinfectant, and sweat. I hesitated and he said, “Yes, please.” 

Our kiss started off soft and gentle and progressed to hungry. I lost all thought of the horrors of Black-Sun or the worries of being a Sun Speaker.

Diamond’s gleeful laughter pulled us out of the kiss and when we gave her a confused look, she said, “I bet Flint you’d kiss before we made it to home base.” Flint pulled out some credit chips and passed them over. We all laughed a little and Diamond asked, “If I get you to Viol, would you have the parts to build a ship-sized version of the anti-Sun Speaker tech?”

“Wait a second,” Sphene said. “If you had that thing on, how did he get that vision?”

“Each Sun has a separate frequency,” started Flint. “Ours is blocked by the tech and whatever Sun is talking to Garnet is not. You must be in contact with some sort of Rebel Sun.”

“Right. Why else would it want us to send this information out?” I added. Another image from the flash jumped to mind and I added, “There are other Suns and most of them are not on our side.” I then remembered Diamond’s question and replied, “Yes I can, but we’ll have to hurry. They might not be able to track us, but they certainly can figure out where you’ve been from flight and docking records.”

We hurried to Viol, where I had thought I’d spend the rest of my life, and everything felt smaller. Like when I’d visited the training academy after my first tour. 

I built the device and installed it on the ship. I also upgraded the holo-emitter and brought my favourite tools on board.

“So, you’ve decided to join us full time?” asked Onyx, obviously trying to look casual and failing.

“Yes. This may have started as a kidnapping, but you make really good spaghetti.” 

 “Even though I add too much garlic?”

“I never said that, I just said it was more than the military or galactic police put in theirs.”

We smiled at each other and he took my hand as I brought my stuff on board. We might be getting ready to destabilize the system by exposing the horrors of Black-Sun and we were about to become the number one most wanted by an army of psychics, but I was happy. That might sound selfish, but love is a wonderful motivator for hope.

“Alright. Let’s get to home base and finish this,” Diamond said. “Who’s ready to pick a fight with the biggest, baddest jerks in the galaxy?”

Read Chapter 12 (December 2021)

While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:

Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7


Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I was planning on writing a reminder on not being a jerk about holiday decorations, but I can’t concentrate.

Health Canada approves Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children

I’m really excited to get my kids protected from the worst effects of this virus.

If you have questions the Ottawa Public Health has a wonderful resource about the vaccine.

Now we wait for distribution and hopefully the eventual approval of 4 and under. Once that’s done and our family is protected, we start thinking about a return to normalcy. Hopefully the case numbers will be down by then too.

Hope you have a great day,

Stay safe and be kind,


Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.


The story felt very familiar yet different. It was a wonderful melding of hero’s quest, Chinese action movie, and Marvel origin story. They took a story that could have been grim and turned it into something hopeful and I appreciate that.

Score: 1


The main character was a little brooding and very quip-y, which I like. I enjoyed the friend who tags along getting their own story arc. The villain was nuanced and interesting.

I think overall the entire cast was fantastic and I wish we could have had more time with them.

Score: 1


Two very well placed, “Oh Shit” moments and lots of excellent banter. The narration and storytelling leaned into the epic LOTR / Crouching Tiger style while the in world dialogue was pure Marvel sass.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The fight scenes were beautifully done, filmed in a more traditional style with pans and freezes that I personally prefer over the jump cuts and shaky cam.

The special effects were perfect and the amount of personality in the dragon, Cthulhu stand-in, and temple guardians was absolutely spectacular.

The music was a little muddled at times, having trouble choosing between brassy Marvel, and strings with Asian influences. I appreciate the more modern music as a counterpoint though.

Score: 0.5


Exciting and interesting throughout. It hits all my favourite beats for epic fantasy and superhero movies. My 5 year old was riveted the whole way and my 2 year old loved the fights, but got bored at the story parts.

I look forward to re-watching.

Score: 1


This is the Marvel formula done properly with a hint of classic kung-fu movies. The cast and storytelling is amazing. It has some of the most spectacular creatures and fight scenes in Marvel and I can’t wait to see more of this cast.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5 Stars